By Dr. Paul J. Pavlik, Vice President, Dental Practice Management Consulting at Dentist.Business
"Making predictions is hard, especially when they are about the future.” Yogi Berra
Whether you are (1) preparing to graduate and deciding on a career where you will manage your own practice, or (2) planning on leaving your current employment and striking out on your own, or (3) you are an experienced dentist and owner looking to improve, this two-part blog series discusses some tips that may help you map out a better path for a successful future with fewer pitfalls.
The first three tips are included in this blog. The remaining tips will come to you in the next blog titled “Tips on Preparing for a Successful Solo Career – Part II.”
Give yourself a financial safety net
Consider setting aside money that you think will adequately fund your practice and personal needs for at least six months, but preferably for one year. This safety net can come from dollars you have already set aside personally, from profits from another business, or from adding this amount to the business loan (e.g., bank, SBA, LOC, etc.) you are requesting for starting the practice (i.e., a Line of Credit or LOC).
This safety net should include dollars set aside for business necessities only, not for play money that would fund expensive vacations, new homes, new cars, etc. while you are in your first year of business.
Be sure to develop a business plan (i.e., a BP), in advance, that includes a source of contingency funding while your new practice begins to grow; the lending institutions will have more respect for you as a potential borrower when you show you have considered every scenario, good and bad.
You don’t have to go it alone
No matter how experienced or knowledgeable you consider yourself to be, great comfort can be gained by adding the additional business IQ, which other advisors can offer, to your arsenal. These sources of guidance can include additional education, apprenticing (associating) with doctors who have been successful, and/or seeking out mentors and/or consultants who really know their stuff.
Carefully choose your sources of additional knowledge by asking for testimonials from other dentists who have used these advisors’ services in the past.
Consider sharing your office space with another independent dentist owner. If you have office hours on Monday through Thursday from 8 to 5, allow someone else to use the space Friday and Saturday and Monday through Thursday from 5 to 9. Remember, you are paying for the rent or mortgage 24 – 7.
Strongly consider why potential clients and future customers may want to spend their hard-earned money for your services and/or products. For example, what will you offer that is unique and separates you from the crowd (e.g., niche products and services, better quality, outrageous customer care, speedy service, etc.) Proudly display your name and what your new service and/or product offers. Market your strong points every chance you get.
Approach your former employers, educators, mentors, piers, and vendors (after all, they owe you for the money you spend with them). Find out if they can help you put together a network of contacts that will help you grow your practice.
It's worth spending money on classy letterhead, business cards, and a web site. You want to inspire confidence. You don't want to look as if you are just starting out - even if you really are.
Next time …
In the next post, more tips will be presented to help you get a positive jump-start on your practice.
*A special thank you goes out for ideas from Josh Hyatt, Senior Writer for Money Magazine.
The opinions expressed this blog are those of the author. All of the information contained herein is intended to be general in nature without regard to specific types of businesses, geographical areas, or other circumstances, and should only be considered after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.